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DID YOU READ

Richard Linklater and Jack Black talk “Bernie” and a “School of Rock” sequel

bernie jack black

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By Jennifer Vineyard

A small-town funeral director kills the wealthiest widow around, stuffs her body in a freezer, and pretends she’s still alive so he can keep spending her money. Not only is that the plot of Richard Linklater’s latest comedy “Bernie” starring Jack Black and Shirley MacLaine, but it’s also a true story: Bernie Tiede is currently serving a life sentence in Texas for the murder of Marjorie Nugent, for which he’ll be eligible for parole in 2027.

But more than just ripping a story from the headlines, Linklater created the film as a fiction/documentary hybrid, in which the townspeople themselves help tell the story.

“I always thought of it as a drama with these locals as a kind of an East Texas Greek chorus, the way [the Warren Beatty film] ‘Reds’ has witnesses, too,” Linklater told IFC. “Other films do that, but a lot of this was just gossip, so it’s to tell the story via the gossips. In fact, they are played by a lot of real people from the area — the hairdresser, a neighbor, somebody who traveled with them, people who attended the church with them — but not all of them knew Bernie. Some of them just knew about it.”

“That would be a cool DVD feature,” Black said. “This person did know, this person didn’t know. It could be a game.”

The gossips have a unique spin on the murder because in the town of Carthage, Texas, Bernie was so incredibly popular, while Marjorie inspired new levels of hate — so much so that even after people knew about the murder, nobody wanted to blame Bernie for the crime, forcing the district attorney (played by Matthew McConaughey) to seek a change of venue for the trial. Matthew’s mom Kay even makes a cameo, playing one of the gossips who confronts the D.A.

“Can you tell by looking at her?” Black asked. “I didn’t know it was her, but she is one of my favorites. It really runs in the blood in that family. And you know, she’s really keen on getting something going, the two of us. We’re talking about doing some kind of side project. I don’t know if it’s going to be a movie or a band or what, but it’s going to be something. She’s got it.”

Because Bernie sang at church and funeral services, Black has quite a few gospel numbers in the film. “This felt like a musical to some degree,” Linklater said. It whetted the singer/actor’s appetite to put out a soundtrack of the material (“because the songs are so great, and I love singing the gospel”) as well as getting together with Linklater for that much-discussed “School of Rock” sequel.

“It’s not like this one had anything to do with that one, because music is the only thing they share,” Black said, “but really, I’d love to work with Rick again on ‘SOR’ or whatever.” Linklater, who was present, nodded yes. “That would have been a very awkward pause if he didn’t say yes!” Black laughed.

But when could that happen? After all, Mike White had a screenplay for the project at one point, but that idea seemed to have fizzled out.

“Whenever Tenacious D did interviews, people would ask us, ‘When is the next album?’ And we would just say, ‘Definitely the summer of 2012,’ as a joke, because it was so far away,” Black said. “But now, it is happening, and in that relative time frame, despite it being a fictitious date” (since “Rize of the Fenix” hit shelves May 15). “But I don’t see a movie happening for this one. I could see Tenacious D in an animated web series, having another adventure, but the union would frown upon Jack Black — sorry to use myself in the third person — they would frown upon first, second, and third person versions of myself, and fourth, on film. But the web series wouldn’t be until 2013.”

“School of Rock,” he said, wouldn’t be until 2020, because his “natural cycle” of working with Linklater is every eight years. “So look for us in 2020!” Black laughed.

“I feel lucky that after eight, nine years, we actually got to do this one,” Linklater said.

Linklater said he’s on a similar nine-year cycle with Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, with whom he made the “Before Sunrise and “Before Sunset” films (and may still make a third in the series). “We’re calling it ‘More BS,'” he joked. “Or ‘Before Lunch.’ Nothing’s set it stone on that one yet, but it’s one of the least successful films ever made that spun sequels. How about ‘Before Breaking Dawn’?”

In the meantime, Linklater continues to shoot a few days a year with Hawke on a project alternately called “The 12 Year Project,” “Boyhood,” and “Growing Up,” in which the director chronicles a boy, played by Ellar Salmon, throughout his childhood (Hawke plays his father, and Patricia Arquette his mother). They’ve been shooting for ten years now, and Linklater estimates he’s got two more years left.

“That one is an intriguing process,” he said. “It’s a three day shoot, every year, at different times of the year. And we’re almost done.”

Chime in with your thoughts on this interview with Jack Black and Richard Linklater below or on Facebook or Twitter.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…

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IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.

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IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).

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IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.

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IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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Reality? Check.

Baroness For Life

Baroness von Sketch Show is available for immediate consumption.

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Baroness von Sketch Show is snowballing as people have taken note of its subtle and not-so-subtle skewering of everyday life. The New York Times, W Magazine, and Vogue have heaped on the praise, but IFC had a few more probing questions…

IFC: To varying degrees, your sketches are simply scripted examples of things that actually happen. What makes real life so messed up?

Aurora: Hubris, Ego and Selfish Desires and lack of empathy.

Carolyn: That we’re trapped together in the 3rd Dimension.

Jenn: 1. Other people 2. Other people’s problems 3. Probably something I did.

IFC: A lot of people I know have watched this show and realized, “Dear god, that’s me.” or “Dear god, that’s true.” Why do people have their blinders on?

Aurora: Because most people when you’re in the middle of a situation, you don’t have the perspective to step back and see yourself because you’re caught up in the moment. That’s the job of comedians is to step back and have a self-awareness about these things, not only saying “You’re doing this,” but also, “You’re not the only one doing this.” It’s a delicate balance of making people feel uncomfortable and comforting them at the same time.

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IFC: Unlike a lot of popular sketch comedy, your sketches often focus more on group dynamics vs iconic individual characters. Why do you think that is and why is it important?

Meredith: We consider the show to be more based around human dynamics, not so much characters. If anything we’re more attracted to the energy created by people interacting.

Jenn: So much of life is spent trying to work it out with other people, whether it’s at work, at home, trying to commute to work, or even on Facebook it’s pretty hard to escape the group.

IFC: Are there any comedians out there that you feel are just nailing it?

Aurora: I love Key and Peele. I know that their show is done and I’m in denial about it, but they are amazing because there were many times that I would imagine that Keegan Michael Key was in the scene while writing. If I could picture him saying it, I knew it would work. I also kind of have a crush on Jordan Peele and his performance in Big Mouth. Maya Rudolph also just makes everything amazing. Her puberty demon on Big Mouth is flawless. She did an ad for 7th generation tampons that my son, my husband and myself were singing around the house for weeks. If I could even get anything close to her career, I would be happy. I’m also back in love with Rick and Morty. I don’t know if I have a crush on Justin Roiland, I just really love Rick (maybe even more than Morty). I don’t have a crush on Jerry, the dad, but I have a crush on Chris Parnell because he’s so good at being Jerry.

Jenn: I LOVE ISSA RAE!

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IFC: If you could go back in time and cast yourselves in any sitcom, which would it be and how would it change?

Carolyn: I’d go back in time and cast us in The Partridge Family.  We’d make an excellent family band. We’d have a laugh, break into song and wear ruffled blouses with velvet jackets.  And of course travel to all our gigs on a Mondrian bus. I feel really confident about this choice.

Meredith: Electric Mayhem from The Muppet Show. It wouldn’t change, they were simply perfect, except… maybe a few more vaginas in the band.

Binge the entire first and second seasons of Baroness von Sketch Show now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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G.I. Jeez

Stomach Bugs and Prom Dates

E.Coli High is in your gut and on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Brothers-in-law Kevin Barker and Ben Miller have just made the mother of all Comedy Crib series, in the sense that their Comedy Crib series is a big deal and features a hot mom. Animated, funny, and full of horrible bacteria, the series juxtaposes timeless teen dilemmas and gut-busting GI infections to create a bite-sized narrative that’s both sketchy and captivating. The two sat down, possibly in the same house, to answer some questions for us about the series. Let’s dig in….

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IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

BEN: Hi ummm uhh hi ok well its like umm (gets really nervous and blows it)…

KB: It’s like the Super Bowl meets the Oscars.

IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

BEN: Oh wow, she’s really cute isn’t she? I’d definitely blow that too.

KB: It’s a cartoon that is happening inside your stomach RIGHT NOW, that’s why you feel like you need to throw up.

IFC: What was the genesis of E.Coli High?

KB: I had the idea for years, and when Ben (my brother-in-law, who is a special needs teacher in Philly) began drawing hilarious comics, I recruited him to design characters, animate the series, and do some writing. I’m glad I did, because Ben rules!

BEN: Kevin told me about it in a park and I was like yeah that’s a pretty good idea, but I was just being nice. I thought it was dumb at the time.

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IFC: What makes going to proms and dating moms such timeless and oddly-relatable subject matter?

BEN: Since the dawn of time everyone has had at least one friend with a hot mom. It is physically impossible to not at least make a comment about that hot mom.

KB: Who among us hasn’t dated their friend’s mom and levitated tables at a prom?

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

BEN: There’s a lot of content now. I don’t think anyone will even notice, but it’d be cool if they did.

KB: A show about talking food poisoning bacteria is basically the same as just watching the news these days TBH.

Watch E.Coli High below and discover more NYTVF selections from years past on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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